Ancelotti refuses to rule out Benzema from Real Madrid’s derby against Atletico

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Karim Benzema could be back for Real Madrid’s derby date with city rivals Atletico a week on Sunday, according to boss Carlo Ancelotti.

The 34-year-old Frenchman suffered a thigh issue while on Champions League duty at Celtic on Tuesday, and was taken off after half an hour against the Scottish champions.

The initial diagnosis was that he had injured his semitendinosus tendon, and strained the quadricep muscle in his right thigh. It was set to leave him out for up to month.

But in the press conference ahead of Real Madrid’s league match at home to Real Mallorca, Ancelotti said Benzema could return before the international break. France face Nations League against Austria and Denmark at the end of September.

Ancelotti said: ‘We will see if Benzema can play the derby on Sunday. If not he will not go with France.’

The Italian manager is expected to utilise Eden Hazard for the match against Mallorca, and then the midweek visit of RB Leipzig in the Champions League. Hazard scored one of Real Madrid’s three goals at Celtic on Tuesday.

‘A natural replacement for Karim we do not have, because he is the best forward in the world,’ Ancelotti said.

‘There is no substitute for him on the market, but you can substitute him with players with different characteristics.’

Speaking about Benzema’s injury, the 63-year-old said: ‘They are things that can happen to footballers. Last year he also had a small problem in December and I think that we covered him well. Without him the team played well against Celtic.’

Benzema helped Real Madrid to the LaLiga title and the Champions League trophy last season, scoring 42 goals. They are league leaders again this time around after the opening four games.

Eder Militao and Alvaro Odriozola will also sit out Sunday’s match against Mallorca, but Thibaut Courtois is set to be fit. Ancelotti confirmed the Belgian keeper had trained normally after missing the previous two days. Jesus Vallejo is also back in group training and could be involved.

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